Confidence can be a great thing. Every player and every team needs it to be successful. And if you read what the national media is saying about the Raiders these days, you can understand why they might be feeling pretty good about themselves these days. But there's a decided difference between believing in one's self and reading one's press clippings. One matters and the other is a trap.
The term ‘paper champions' gets thrown around a lot with teams that are the newest sensation, but haven't proven it on the field.
"I think that's a nice catchphrase for somebody to write about, but that's not real," said Del Rio. "For us, we're about the work that we're putting in. It's real work. There is real sweat being put it. There is real effort and energy being put forth. A real commitment. That's where our focus is, not on words."
It's ok for the fans to get excited when they read about how good the Raiders are expected to be. For the players, however, they must be even more vigilant to ensure there isn't any ‘we got this' attitudes among the ranks.
This team went 7-9 last season, which is not great, but it's their best record since going 8-8 in 2011. What has everyone excited is the idea that the Raiders window was just opening. They have young talented players and added more talent in the offseason to help continue their growth.
This team is in a much different place now than it was a year ago when Jack Del Rio and the new coaching staff came in. They were coming off a 3-13 season - their worst since 2006 - and a whole lotta question marks on both sides of the ball.
Several of those questions were answered last season in a positive way and the position in which the team now finds itself is far better.
For that reason Del Rio said "there's no question" the Raiders are more confident now than they were this time last year.
"We're gaining in confidence because of the work we're putting in," said Del Rio. "I think that's where it starts. There are a lot of things being said. This time of year, talk is cheap. I don't really spend a whole lot of time worrying about what is said, but I do pay a lot of attention to what is being done and the work that's being put in, commitment level. To me, that's where my focus is. That's where I want our focus to be, on how we're driving each other, on how we're committed to being here and doing the things we can do. Focusing on all of that is really where it's at. That allows you to have a chance in the fall to do your thing."
This confidence also applies to the coaching staff who now has had a full year to get a feel for the players on this team as well as understand what it needs to get to the next level.
"Obviously, in Year 2 there is a core of leaders that understand how we do things and what we're looking for. There is a staff that's returning intact that understands how we want to do things. I think with that, that puts us significantly ahead of where we were last year at this time."